[Disclaimer: Yes, I know that the characters in books and on TV are fictitious. In this article I’m not trying to say that these people are “real” in any way. I’m merely using them as an example to make a point. So no, I’m not nuts enough to really believe that these people live real lives inside the box in my living room. Now back to your regularly scheduled article.]
Have you ever noticed that, when you pick up a good book or watch a good TV show or movie that the characters rarely, if ever, watch television? They all seem to have TV’s in their homes, but rarely are they on. You rarely read about someone coming home and plopping down in front of the TV and that’s all they do for a whole chapter. You don’t see someone on TV come home and do nothing but watch reruns of old sitcoms.
Yet the characters you read about and watch are almost always well-off financially and have a lot of friends and social interactions. They have busy lives, cool jobs, nice cars, and swanky apartments or houses. They eat at good restaurants and go to a lot of parties. They travel and have adventures. And there’s always romance. Fictitious characters have great lives and are successful, but they don’t watch TV. So what gives?
We always hear that people who watch a lot of TV or movies want to emulate what they see on TV, that people strive to act like the people they see in movies or read about in books. Studies show that we want the same things these characters have. We see the nice cars, clothes, trips, and friends and we want them, too. TV is supposed to influence our behavior. Well, it must not because from what I can tell, watching TV isn’t making anyone watch less TV. And the benefits of watching less TV is exactly what TV is showing. If these characters aren’t watching TV and are so successful and happy, what makes us think we can have their lives by plopping down in front of the tube every night? If we want what they have, and we want to emulate their lives, we shouldn’t be watching so much TV.
I’ve been sort of aware of this twisted bit of logic for some time, but recently I started to pay attention and wonder why this should be. (I must not have enough to do.) So why don’t people on TV, in movies, and in books watch TV and how are they able to be so successful, well off and happy? Here’s what I’ve come up with based on many years of reading and watching.
People sitting around watching TV doesn’t make for interesting plots: Neither does it make for an interesting life. If you want an interesting and successful life, you have to go out and do things, not watch other people doing them.
The characters in books and on TV are so successful because they spend their time working at their fabulous jobs or starting their own businesses, not watching TV: Heck, in some shows or books they don’t do anything but work. If you want to be successful, you have to work. Watching TV won’t get it done.
Fictitious characters have a lot of disposable income because they aren’t throwing away $100 or more every month on TV packages: They also aren’t distracted by advertising for random crap. Because they aren’t spending so much on other things, they have a lot more money to buy the clothes, cars, and furniture that make them look so cool.
They all look so good because, without TV, they have a lot more time to exercise: They also snack less (since snacking and TV tend to go hand in hand) and probably consume less fast food.
Their houses look so good and unique because, without TV, they have time and money to dedicate to home improvements and furnishings: Their taste isn’t dictated by TV but rather by personal preferences.
These characters are so happy because their lives are not ruined with all the negative news circulated in the media: They aren’t depressed and down about the economy or the crime rate, they just go on blissfully unaware of impending Armageddon. Since happiness equates to a can-do attitude and success, they are more likely to be successful.
Characters are more social because they aren’t at home waiting for their show to air: They meet their quirky neighbors and the guys down at the bar. They connect with their kids. They spend time with friends and family and, as such, develop deeper relationships than those who watch TV all the time.
Their kids seem better behaved (not on reality TV; those kids watch TV) because they aren’t exposed to all the violence, sex, drugs, and mayhem contained on TV: Their kids are also thin because they don’t spend time plopped in front of the screen.
Characters are awesomely talented because they have the time to practice their talents: TV isn’t sucking away their music or athletic practice time, so they get better at what’s important to them.
Some of them are super-smart because they spend their time reading and learning things out in the world rather than watching every re-run of King of the Hill: The lack of TV means they have more time for education or, heck, being a child prodigy like Doogie Howser.
They have much higher self esteem (some even think way too highly of themselves) because they aren’t getting the destructive messages from the media that they are too fat, too skinny, too short, too tall, stupid, out of the loop, or ugly: And we all know that a high self esteem correlates to success.
All of this kind of makes you wonder, if we base our lives on what we see on TV, why are we watching so much TV? If we were truly basing our lives on what we see on TV, we wouldn’t be watching TV. We would be out and about, meeting people and working hard. It’s a funny irony that watching TV is not the way to become like the people you see on TV. Turning off the TV is the way to become better off financially, healthier, happier, better looking, smarter, and more social. So start emulating your favorite characters and turn off the TV.
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